What’s the Uber for Education?

Uber changes consumer expectations for everything.” Steve Yankovich explained that last year we would have stressed about waving on a street corner or calling for a cab and this year we can tap an app and pick a car based on reviews.  That consumer level of empowerment is quickly translated into expectations in other areas.
Yankovich leads innovation and new ventures for eBay.  He spoke to legislators at an #NCLSjobs Summit in Silicon Valley last week about changes in commerce. In setting the context, he noted the shrinking time to reach 10% of the addressable market: 25 years for phone, 12 years for mobile, 8 years for smartphone, and 3 years for tablets.
The day before Alibaba went public, Steve noted that in three years China will be biggest market for online commerce. Over the next decade 91% of new Internet users and 60% of e-commerce will come from emerging markets.
In addition to rapidly becoming international, commerce is shifting to mobile.  More than 40% of eBay transactions are conducted at least in part by mobile apps on more than 240 million devices.
Commerce, according to Yankovich, is shifting from personal to intimate, from clicks to sensors, from mechanical to digital, and from participatory to anticipatory.  “What’s happening around here is really quite science fiction.”
Yankovich said personalized shopping is right around the corner–stores will know when we arrive and with a little prompting will pick out items we’re likely to purchase and we’ll be charged for items we leave with. In some cases, we’ll shop at a digital storefront and items will be loaded for us when we leave the parking lot. Digital assistants at home will make sure the basics–from toiletries to groceries–are there when we need them.
Steve said the “friction free” and  “Uber-like experience for commerce will win.”  He went on to describe how disappointing it was that his son’s school was using print textbooks and was slow to adopt new learning applications–which led me to wonder about an Uber-like experience in education.
Student centered learning. An Uber-like education would be student-centered.  As the Nellie Mae Education Foundation suggests, it would include “four key tenets, drawn from the mind/brain sciences, learning theory, and research on youth development that are essential to students’ full engagement in achieving deeper learning outcomes:”

  • Learning is Personalized: Personalized learning recognizes that students engage in different ways and in different places. Students benefit from individually-paced, targeted learning tasks that start from where the student is, formatively assess existing skills and knowledge, and address the student’s needs and interests.
  • Learning is Competency-Based: Students move ahead when they have demonstrated mastery of content, not when they’ve reached a certain birthday or endured the required hours in a classroom.
  • Learning Happens Anytime, Anywhere: Learning takes place beyond the traditional school day, and even the school year. The school’s walls are permeable–learning is not restricted to the classroom.
  • Students Take Ownership Over Their Learning: Student-centered learning engages students in their own success—and incorporates their interests and skills into the learning process. Students support each others progress and celebrate success.

For more on what Uber-like learning would look like, see:

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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